In early 2015, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the genetically modified non-browning apples are safe to come to market. These apples should be available to the public beginning with the 2017 harvest. What an innovative idea! There are some times that I just want a few bites instead of the entire apple, but hate to have it brown and spoil. Won’t it be great to have an apple that doesn’t brown that you can slice and eat it any time you want? While a great idea in theory, there is a lot of scientific evidence that not only proves otherwise, but still leaves a lot of unanswered questions. Here is what you need to know before biting into your first non-browning apple.
Before I delve into this miracle apple, let’s go back to the basics and review the safety of apples in general.
Apples and Pesticides
In 2015, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) announced that apples ranked #1 with the highest number of pesticides for the fifth year in a row. In 2016, they dropped to second place, only to be out-pesticided by the humble strawberry. “More than 98% of strawberries, peaches, nectarines, and apples tested positive for at least one pesticide residue.” (source). EWG is often a lone source of reporting this information, but even Forbes backed up their analysis and said that “pesticides showed up on 98% of the more than 700 (washed) apple samples tested.” Common pesticides sprayed on apples include Paraquat and organophosphates, toxins with a potential links to Parkinson’s Disease and cancers including childhood cancers.
Toxins aside, is there anything more annoying than eating half an apple, getting distracted, and coming back just to have it brown? Or wanting to slice up apples for your children’s lunches but you can’t because of that very fact? Okanagan Specialty Fruits, Inc. created the first non-browning apple. It’s called the Artic® Apple.
Enter the First Non-Browning Apple
Arctic® Apples consist of Granny Smith and Golden Delicious apples that have been genetically modified by Okanagan Specialty Fruits, Inc. In a nutshell, these apples have been genetically modified to resist browning associated with cuts and bruises by reducing the levels of enzymes that can cause browning. According to Artic:
- “Arctic® apples are like other apples in terms of their nutrition and composition, and even how the trees grow and behave; they just have the added benefit of better retaining their fresh natural color when they are bitten, bruised or sliced because their browning genes were switched off.
- Arctic® apples are one of the most studied foods of all time. They have been rigorously reviewed by independent regulatory experts at the USDA, FDA, CFIA and Health Canada, based on more than ten years of data and studies, and these experts all agree that Arctic® apples are as safe as other apples.
- Because Arctic® apples are non-browning, you don’t need to add chemical additives or souring agents when you cut them, so the only thing you taste is delicious apple!”
How the Apples are Made
So how does Okanagan make this miracle apple? The apples are genetically modified by suppressing the polyphenol oxidase (PPO) gene. We don’t know yet the unintended consequences of suppressing the PPO gene. Initial research suggests there is a possibility that the apple’s nutritional polyphenols (basically it’s natural medicinal compounds) are altered. This could mean that by genetically modifying the apple to no longer brown, these apples may not have the same nutritional qualities as the non-GMO apples.
What the Critics Have to Say
The U.S. Apple Association opposes these genetically modified apples because they believe it could undermine the fruit’s image as a healthy and natural food. Other critics worry about the concept of a non-browning apple. Current pre-sliced apples are frequently recalled. Browning is a natural way for the apple to show it is no longer fresh, and losing this key sign of danger may increase the risk of exposure to pathogens.
A press release from Food and Water Watch reported that “The USDA’s environmental review received 73,000 comments that overwhelmingly opposed the commercialization of Arctic Apples.” It further states that the USDA neglected to look at the full range of risks from these apples, and glossed over unintentional effects associated with the genetic modification of these apples.
Critics also question the FDA’s pre-market safety testing. It is unknown if these apples will be sold as pre-sliced or whole non-browning apples, or will they make their way into juice, baby foods or apple sauce? We do not know the unintended disease vulnerability of these apples, which could increase the amount of pesticides in an already pesticide-saturated food. We do not know the long-term affects of these genetic modifications and unintended consequences, especially those which would affect foods (juice, baby foods, apple sauce) that are predominately consumed by babies and toddlers.
Additional criticism likens the genetically modified apples to the plight of soy and canola oil. Since soy and canola oil came under criticism for being highly genetically modified, educated consumers have voted with their dollars, and the industry has seen the sales of these foods plummet and the reputation of these foods ruined.
Okanagan plans to require the labeling of their apples as “Artic Variety.” But there are no laws in the United States to require labeling of genetically modified food. Therefore, these apples may or may not be labeled as such, it is too early to tell. The first Artic apples are Granny Smith and Golden Delicious, with Fuji and Gala on the horizon. Therefore, if an apple is labeled “Artic Variety,” there will be no confusion. But if you purchase Granny Smith, Golden Delicious, (and soon Fuji and Gala) apples, you will not know if these apples have been genetically modified or not. At this point, there is no way to tell until you take your first bite.
What Does This Mean For You?
This is just the beginning. Potatoes have already received the green light to be genetically modified. Peaches, cherries, and pears are soon thereafter. What does this mean for you? If this bothers you like it bothers me, you can become more educated and vote with your dollars. You can shop at your local farmer’s markets or co-ops and ask questions about how the food is grown. You can buy organic and support this growing industry to help bring down the cost of organic produce.
Holly Bertone, CNHP, PMP, is an author, blogger, and healthy living advocate. She is the President and CEO of Pink Fortitude, LLC. Holly is a breast cancer and Hashimoto’s survivor and turned these two significant health challenges into an enterprise of healthy living. She inspires others with her quick wit and brutal honesty.
Holly is a Certified Natural Health Professional and is enrolled in a Naturopathic Doctorate program. She holds a Masters Degree from Johns Hopkins University, a Bachelor’s Degree from Elizabethtown College, and is a Project Management Professional (PMP).
Holly is passionate about reaching out to breast cancer survivors, and also volunteers for organizations supporting our military veterans. In her free time, she loves to garden, and hit flea markets and yard sales. Holly is married to a retired Green Beret, is a stepmother, and lives in Alexandria, VA.
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Holly Bertone, CNHP, PMP, is an author, blogger, and healthy living advocate. She is the President and CEO of Pink Fortitude, LLC. Holly is a breast cancer and Hashimoto’s survivor and turned these two significant health challenges into an enterprise of healthy living. She inspires others with her [...]